Ministry in a Post-Christian World by Dr. Glenn Rice
The church in the twenty-first century exists in a climate not unlike that of the first century. Gnosticism, hedonismand polytheism common in the days of the early church can be compared to a postmodern, post-Christian culture that espouses relativism, pluralism, and skepticism. Many wonder what effective ministry in this culture looks like.
Eddie Gibbs speaks to this problem in his book, The Rebirth of the Church. As churches “find themselves increasingly marginalized and unable to count on the support of the communities they are meant to serve, they are finding that long-established approaches to ministry – well-publicized, attractive services and a range of activities to meet the needs of individuals and families from the cradle to the grave – no longer have the broad appeal that they had for previous generations. Cultural and political challenges compound the problem.
While many advocate for a more confrontational form of Christianity – reclaiming what the devil has stolen from us (a euphemism for ‘Christian nationalism’) – the calling of the church is not to pseudo-Christian militancy or the preaching of a reductionist gospel. How we present the Christian faith to this culture and the world around us matters, and it matters much more than we realize. The gospel is not something we ‘dumb down’ so people will find it more palatable. Neither does the church need a new message to increase ministry effectiveness in our local communities. What the church needs is a rebirth!
It is time to move on from being a staid and static institution, to become the living organism and dynamic movement it was created to be. Jesus, the founder of the church, emphatically stated to Peter these words about the church’s inauguration. “[A]nd on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt.16:18) It is time for the people of God to ask painful questions, once again reigniting passion in our pews. Alan Hirsch raises a few of these pressing questions. “Will more of the same do the trick? Do we have the inherited resources to deal with this situation? Can we simply rework the tried and true Christendom understanding of church that we so love and understand, and finally, in an ultimate tweak of the system, come up with the winning formula?” Hirsch goes on to answer these questions. “The tools and techniques that fitted previous eras of Western history simply don’t seem to work any longer. What we need now is a new set of tools. A new ‘paradigm’–a new vision of reality: a fundamental change in our thoughts, perceptions and values, especially as they relate to our view of the church and mission.” The answer is rebirth!
Rebirth is the means by which the church will see itself as God intended. Rebirth for the church is about being on mission for God. It is about the church serving the kingdom of God. Rebirth means that the church prioritizes incarnational ministry, engaging every disciple of Jesus in mission. If a local church has its own mission, serves its own purposes, pursues attractional ministry, or simply pays the pastor (and staff) to do ministry, it is dying or already spiritually dead and does not represent the true church. Only a rebirth can breathe the life of the Spirit of God into that church again. Ministry in a post-Christian world demands nothing less!